Envoy's role in limbo as diplomacy in Syria is dead
ANALYSIS:THE VETERAN Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi has come in to replace Kofi Annan as the new international envoy to Syria even as time has been called on the UN’s much-maligned observer mission. But right now, there is no space for diplomacy in Syria.
The UN monitoring mission which ended its unsuccessful four-month stint last Sunday night was to monitor a peace that clearly never existed.
Annan’s six-point peace plan, agreed to by both rebels and the Syrian regime and which included provisions for the free movement of international media around the country, the withdrawal of the government’s heavy artillery from urban centres and the unhindered right to assemble in public spaces, never got off the ground. Instead, it was used as a tool by the Syrian government.
International diplomatic efforts never had a chance in helping to solve the crisis in Syria and Annan cannot be blamed for having failed.
The plan failed because the rebels do not trust the Syrian regime, with reason. Another reason it failed to get off the ground was because the regime has no interest in peace.
For the rebels, having lost fathers, brothers and sisters to the regime’s brutality, there could be no negotiations until the regime was completely stripped of power. For the regime itself, it never felt serious negotiation was necessary. Both sets of views continue to remain true today.
The Assad regime has never had any intention of taking a diplomatic route to solve the conflict. It has long since chosen the way of the gun in its response to the popular uprising. It has, however, held up its arms claiming it did and will continue to assist the UN mission. As military operations continue in multiple areas around the country, the reality on the ground suggests otherwise.
This is because the Syrian regime still feels it is unmatched in its power, control and popularity and, as a result, it has never felt it must comply with Annan’s peace deal. It should be remembered that because the regime is in complete control of Damascus, its leadership does not feel the end is near.
Inside Syria there is a formidable propaganda campaign at play, convincing many in the main cities that the regime is winning its war, that it has enacted reforms and that it is working in the interests of the country.
State media deftly positioned last week’s bombing of an important security complex in Damascus by the so-called Free Syrian Army as an attack on the UN observers, not the government’s military. It continues to convince many inside the country – particularly the so-called silent majority – by claiming all is fine; for example, state media continue to publish programmes for swimming pool parties and concerts in the capital.
It also gave significant television air time to the operations and activities of the now defunct Arab League and UN missions when they travelled around Syria. The value of doing so, it seems, is to convince Syrians that it is right, just and balanced. The other effect of having the intimidating state television cameras accompany the observers was to ensure the observers never really got the truth from the civilians they spoke to.